Relationships between suppliers and automakers haven't always been perfect. But if the COVID-19 crisis has exposed anything about those relationships, it's proven just how strong they are.
Even among suppliers, the COVID-19 pandemic has broken down barriers, transforming a competitive landscape into a collaborative one.
"It was incredible to watch our industry come together and talk about what it takes to restart," Shilpan Amin, General Motors Co.'s vice president of global purchasing and supply chain, said during a virtual presentation that was part of the Center for Automotive Research's annual Management Briefing Seminars. "You saw elements of removing the competitiveness and putting back in the collaboration across suppliers, across the industry."
And that willingness to work together for a greater, common good not only helped to keep the industry afloat, but it likely saved lives.
Amin pointed to GM's successful, swift transition to the manufacture and delivery of ventilators as proof. The project was, in large part, a direct result of the support from and collaboration among suppliers. The plan for building ventilators is complex and requires intricate parts, but auto suppliers stepped up by either making transitions of their own or using their connections to ensure others could make the parts needed.
"Collectively, as an industry," he said, "when the nation called for help, we all jumped on board to find solutions in providing for those critical care needs, whether it was ventilator production or ramping up capacity of personal protective equipment."
Within a matter of hours of GM disclosing ventilator project plans, Amin later added, "I had suppliers calling us, basically giving me access to their entire resources: all their people, all their capital, all their facilities: 'What can I do to help?'"
Katherine Worthen, vice president of direct purchasing for Yazaki North America, a supplier of wire and power components, wasn't surprised to see the industry come together like it did, not only to help meet the critical care needs of the nation, but to support each other through the difficult time.